Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Year in Preview

I always feel moderately uncomfortable when I find myself looking forward to upcoming movie releases or events, because it puts me in the awkward position of wishing several months of my life would disappear. And yet every year there's another 12 months of exciting pop culture excess to look forward to, and as soon as one of my anticipated events passes, another dozen are waiting to take it's place. I think you can see where this is going, so to save time and get straight to the time wasting, here's a short list of things I'm truly excited about this year. This is by no means complete, because I'm sure I'm forgetting a few things.

Planetary #27: Planetary was, and until this issue comes out, IS, the greatest comic book currently being published. Technically the series ended with #26, and this is only an epilogue, but with at least one major storyline still unresolved, this issue stands to have plenty new to tell. Planetary explores a common theme among Warren Ellis' writing; an elite team with highly advanced technology saving the world from even more highly advance technology. Ellis is obviously in love with sci-fi, and does like to explore the nuts and bolts of it more than most sci-fi comics, but it's always in service of the story rather than a bland technical readout. Some have claimed(and probably rightfully so) that Warren Ellis is a misanthropic anarchist, but if you look closely at books like Planetary, Global Frequency and Transmetropolitan, you'll see an intense love of the world and the people in it. The vice and level of human atrocities may increase with technology, but in Ellis' world the capacity for epic heroism also rises. All that, and they're just really good, exciting and fun sci-fi action stories.

League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen; The Black Dossier: It's a constant struggle to explain to people how cool this comic series is when all they know of it is the crappy movie. Imagine basing your opinion of Batman on the Adam West television series, only without the fun(for the record I love the Adam West series). The League comics are so cool, so amazingly fun, and so densely packed with visual references that you may have to read it several times over to get it all. In fact, they released two books to explain all the Victorian-era literary references. That may sound daunting, but really, you need only the barest experience with the main characters-Mina Murray; Dracula, Allan Quatermain; King Solomon's Mines, Griffin Hawley; The Invisible Man, Captain Nemo, and Dr. Jekyll- in order to enjoy this series. Everything else is just gravy. Alan Moore is actually my favorite comic book author, and news of his retirement about 4 years ago left me depressed that there would never be any new books to look forward to(he had left his creations in the hands of others, with varying results). But, after a falling out with DC, Moore came back and did a round of one-shots that effectively wrapped up and closed down the comic imprint he had started for them; America's Best Comics(that sound egotistical, but it fits with the bombastic old-school comic feel the imprint frequently strived for). Further news that Moore was working on a third League book, this one an over sized graphic novel spanning several different incarnations of the team, with lots of nifty extras, restored my faith in comics. Originally this was supposed to be released in October of 2006, but it was put on hold indefinitely while Kevin O'Neill finishes up the highly detailed and excellent artwork. Normally I'd be annoyed, but I'm willing to wait as long as it takes to get this book out at the standards set by the first two volumes(both easily available in trade editions. Go buy them now!) And, to give me a head start on NEXT year's list of anticipated releases, he's already announced two more League books.

Buffy Season 8: My buffy fandom used to be a guilty pleasure, and indeed I still tend to watch who I talk about this show with(my girlfriend wont stop making fun of me for liking it), but nowadays I'm proudly a Buffy fan. I think it was the minor vindication, in the form of Firefly and Serenity, that maybe there WAS something to this show about really attractive women kicking vampire ass. Not that Serenity or Firefly lit the world on fire, but they did appeal to people who WOULD like Buffy if they looked past it's surface. I firmly believe that in a few years, when the whole 'girl power' opinion most people have of the show fades away, Buffy will stand out as truly excellent television, a prime example of what the medium can do. From a storytelling standpoint, Buffy utilized the freedom(timewise, anyway) of television in a way that VERY few series have done. Season 7 had an almost perfect ending for the show, but it was obvious that Joss Whedon had a lot more he could do with it, and now he gets that chance. The new Dark Horse series will run like a Season 8 of Buffy, picking up a little while after the series ended, with Joss writing several key story lines and overseeing all of the individual scripts written by others. It comes out next month, and I am itching in anticipation. And just look at the covers by Jo Chen! Georges Jeanty will be handling interiors.

Twin Peaks Season 2: I was a bit too young to appreciate Twin Peaks when it originally aired(I was 11 when it started), but I still have fond memories of this show, which I bought on VHS with Christmas money while in high school and spent one great weekend not leaving my room except for food and bathroom breaks. In fact, if there was one thing I could be said to be fanatical about, it would be Twin Peaks. I own all of the official book releases for this show(The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer, the Diane Tapes), the entire set of trading cards, I even have a large framed print of black and white photos taken on the set by Richard Beymer(Benjamin Horne). I've even been not once, but twice to the Twin Peaks Festival in Washington state and hold fond memories of hanging out with Michael J. Anderson(Little Man From Another Place) and listening to all of his stoner philosophizing. With all that in mind, it would be hard to overestimate how much I've been looking forward to the release of Twin Peaks' second season on DVD. I was worried for awhile that the release of the DVDs would mirror that of the VHS, where season 1 came out, then several years later you could only buy season 2 in a box with season 1.

It's hard to pinpoint exactly what it is about Twin Peaks that appeals to me so. I've always loved a mystery, and David Lynch's love of showing the mysteries that reside behind every door is just something that really connected with me. I've always responded more emotionally than intellectually to Lynch's films. I may not be able to explain what a specific scene means, but that doesn't stop me from becoming emotionally involved in it. Twin Peaks, for all it's darkness and silliness, is a place I always want to return to. True, season 2 was not as cohesive and, well, good, as season 1. Forced by the network to solve the mystery of 'Who Killed Laura Palmer?', the show had no motivating story, and meandered from quirky to silly and stupid. But, without season 2, we wouldn't have had 'Bob', The Black Lodge, the stunning reveal of Laura's killer, or Annie, the best role Heather Graham has ever had. Things I'm still waiting for? A DVD copy of the pilot episode, which is owned by Warner Brothers who have only released the crappy UK version, which has a horrible tacked on ending to the series. Also the deleted scenes for the Twin Peaks Movie, Fire Walk With Me, which David Lynch keeps teasing will be out sometime soon. 45 minutes were cut from that movie, and I would kill to see a full version of that film.

Grindhouse: Grindhouse theatres are places that I was never around to see, since Anchorage wasn't(and still isn't) a large enough place to have grungy inner-city theatres. The closest we had was The Capri, which was dirty and run-down, but also a haven for hippies and pretentious art fags(I say that with absolutely no regard to sexuality, by the way). Grindhouses specialized in exploitation fare, whether it be kung-fu, horror, blaxploitation, or sexploitation, all genres that I have a fondness for. Of course, there was always the fear of bodily harm at these places, but I like the idea of seeing those movies in a theatre full of people not talking DURING the film, but WITH the film.

Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez, both people I'll follow into any movie, team up for a two-in-one horror movie. Rodriguez's film is the one that initially appeals to me, because it's got zombies and Rose McGowan with a stupid/crazy/awesome machine gun leg, but I must say I'm REALLY excited to see what Tarantino has Kurt Russel do. I've seen the trailer(s) more times than I can count, and it looks cooler and cooler each time. Find them here if you don't know what I'm talking about. The icing on the cake is going to be the in-between fake film trailers, directed by Eli Roth(Cabin Fever, Hostel), Edgar Wright(Shaun of the Dead), and Rob Zombie(Devil's Rejects).

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